Tag Archives: Chicago

Bicycling Home

Today was another lovely bike ride home.  A little windy and chilly, but sunny and relaxing.  Refreshing.  I was grateful for the escape after a day at the office.

Nothing helps me unwind and appreciate my place in life like time on the bike.

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Chicago’s Lurie Botanical Gardens

Today was a beautiful day.  One of the most beautiful of the year.  The sunshine and blue skies and flowers and fresh air all made me remember how wonderful living in this world can be, on the right kind of day.

I rode my bike more than usual and I was thankful for the opportunity.  In the morning I had to be far downtown for a seminar, so I took the Lakefront Trail for 45 refreshing minutes.  A few hours later in the early afternoon, I got to enjoy the outdoors again as I biked from there to my office.  While co-workers jumped in a cab,  I couldn’t resist stopping by the Lurie Botanical Gardens in Millennium Park on my bike.

I wore one of the skirts I thrifted this weekend for $2.  I enjoy wearing flowers in the springtime, although I know my fabric cannot compete with nature’s beauty.

The Lurie Garden is an almost miraculous spot in the middle of downtown Chicago.  There is a glorious juxtaposition of nature and city.  The skyscrapers are a sight to behold, hovering over the flower beds.

Getting down to the ground level and smelling the blossoms takes me back to my mom’s garden, growing up in North Carolina.

Then I stand up and see the architectural marvel of the Pritzker Pavilion, backed by the Aon Center and the Watertower antennas.  Ah yes, Chicago!

I lack the green thumb of my mother, so this guide identifying the different flowers in the garden at this time of year was helpful.

This bird in the tree was making a fuss about me taking its picture.  Very loud.  Camera shy.

At the end of the day, I decided to take the Lakefront Trail home.  On one of the most beautiful days of the year, why not end the day with more of the beautiful same?

I managed to feel like I spent a great deal of time outside, when really all I did was get from one place to another, pure transportation.  Yet so much more.  Everyone who rides a bike, you know what I’m talking about, right?  :)

 

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A Spring Saturday Bike Ride

Saturday morning, I met up with my friend Araidia for a brunch and thrift shop expedition. Of course, we biked, which was half the fun!

There are so many beautiful spring flowers in bloom, we each found one to match our helmets.

Araidia’s a purple Bern…

…and mine a pink Nutcase.

We chatted freely along the way, either riding side-by-side or dropping back into single-file when a car approached. The route and area were new to me, so Araidia led the way.  Since she took us along a very quite path, there were few cars and no stress.

We biked through a college campus…

parks…

…and neighborhood streets.

Our destination was the Albany Park neighborhood. Once there, we enjoyed a Swedish brunch at Tre Kronor and thrifting at Village Discount Outlet, where I scored two dresses and three skirts (including an Elie Tahari and a Ralph Lauren) for $37 and Araidia found the awesome pink bag in the photos.

Here is a short little video of our ride through Albany Park. (The song is Jenny Mayhem, “All the World.”)

I returned home five hours after I left, feeling very good about my day – and entitled to some cake and wine after biking nine miles. :)

Did you spend some quality time on your bike this weekend?

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Tulips and a Dutch Bike :)

Spring is such a beautiful time of year for riding a bike!  Oma enjoyed very much spotting so many of her homeland’s flowers during the ride home this evening.

I put her flowered basket back on for now.  I could feel a substantial weight difference with the front rack and basket today, versus strapping my bag to the rear rack, but the basket set-up is worth it for the convenience and aesthetics.

The back street route I traveled was car-free for much of the time.  Such a rarity in Chicago, which is why I’m happy to go 15 minutes out of my way.

Here’s a more representative “gritty” city shot.  I think I need to start adding more spring color to my wardrobe.  The tulips have inspired me!

I hope everyone had a lovely week of bicycling and is ready to begin the second half of April!  :)

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April’s Women-who-bike Brunch

On Sunday, the Chicago Women-Who-Bike gathered for our April brunch.  Although we had to cancel a planned picnic at the last minute due to the weather (never trust a Chicago forecast), a great group of both regulars and first-timers gathered at the back-up location.

Beth (on the left below), a first-timer, is preparing for a charity century ride in June and learning how to use clipless pedals.  My hat is off to her!  Those are two bikey things that I have never tried before.  I love how her Fuji manages to be both utilitarian and attractive while primarily being sporty.  You can follow her adventures at YAY BETH!! (tagline: “cheer me on, damn you.” ha!).

Jenny (on the right below) is a regular and she rides the most lovely Globe I’ve seen.  The Carolina blue frame and cream tires are so gorgeous, right?  Especially with her brown leather boots.  I’m impressed by how far the Globe has come as a utilitarian and classy bike in the past few years.

Araidia and her lovely vintage Raleigh are regulars.  I swooned over her shellacked cork grips for a bit (she shellacked them herself and they look so much nicer than my pre-shellacked ones) and we noticed that our 3-speed Sturmey Archer shifters are almost identical, even though hers is over 30 years older than mine.  Ariadia designs and creates beautiful Love Letter Slips and we made plans to go thrifting together soon!

Chika (on the left below) joined the group for the first time.  I was amazed to learn that we both grew up in North Carolina, went to the same college (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and graduated the same year, 2003!  Meeting a fellow Tarheel in Chicago is so rare, let alone one from my class.  Very cool!

Lucy (on the right) lives near the restaurant, so she walked and I got a photo of her with her cool shoes, instead of her bike.  :) Cute skirt plus leggings plus sneakers = perfect early spring outfit.

Ann was another first-timer.  She rides a WorkCycles Fr8 with two child seats, one on the front and one on the back.  This badass setup is rare in Chicago and I realized that I spotted her one morning in Lincoln Park last year, biking her children to school.  I blogged about the sighting at the time, saying this:

I passed a woman going the other direction who was riding a Dutch bike with flowing hair, carrying a baby on the front and a toddler on the back.  It was so beautiful, I could have wept.  She must be Dutch or something, although I would love to be wrong.  Anyone know a regular Chicago mom who throws down like that?  I was tempted to turn around and catch up with her to snap a picture, but figured that would be weird.

I love that I ended up meeting her all this time later at my brunch, and I’m happy to learn that she is American!

We also had a very special guest visiting from NYC, Kim of Velojoy, a “growing online resource for city cyclists and those who may be considering riding in the bike lanes for the first time,” written by an all-female team.  Connecting with people from around the country and world through the love of bicycling is the best.  I’m so glad Kim contacted me and and now I’m excited to visit New York again soon.

I pulled out Coco for the morning.  I’ll be riding her a lot this spring, I’m sure.  Such a sweet and happy bike.  :)

Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of everyone who was there (Seri, I’m looking at you!).

Of course, the women-who-bike brunch is also about food.  My favorite dish at Ann Sather, a Swedish diner, is the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries.  Yum!

Our next brunch will be the first Sunday of May and we’re also having a happy hour next Wednesday, April 11.  If you want in, email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com and I’ll add you to the mailing list.  Don’t be shy – we’re a friendly bunch!

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Wardrobe Malfunction: Tying my skirt

The other day, I wore a full pleated skirt to work, one I had worn while bicycling many times in the past with no problem.  I must have been riding Betty Foy and not Oma those previous times (like here), because this time the skirt kept ballooning up with wind and blowing back.  While the slightly leaned-forward positioning of Betty Foy causes the wind to push skirts down more securely against my thighs, Oma’s laid-back positioning can have the opposite effect.

For a while, I biked one-handed while using the other hand to hold down the skirt, but even that was not enough to tame it.  Eventually I pulled over, grabbed a ponytail holder from my bag, and tied up one side of my skirt, which worked, although it was wrinkled afterward.

Ta-da!

I was really annoyed by this situation at the time.  I know there are lots of people (both bicyclists and non-bicyclists) who think bicycling in a skirt is silly, and I probably looked like Exhibit No. 1 in support of their opinion out there, but I know that bicycling in a skirt is perfectly reasonable.   I do it all the time without incident and never have to worry about changing at my destination.

I should not care what others think, but I am cognizant of being a rarity out there and I want to represent well the idea of everyday bicycling.

In the end, the solution was easy enough – fast, effective and free – and I will simply make a mental note of this particular skirt’s limitations.

See also, Stapling my skirt.

P.S. Since we’ve been talking a lot about pricy specialty bicycling clothes lately, I’ll point out that this skirt, the pearl necklace, and the cashmere sweater all came from thrift stores.

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Bike Winter Fashion Show – Friday!

Chicago’s annual Bike Winter Fashion Show will take place this Friday, as part of the closing party of the Bike Winter Art Show.

I will be participating in the fashion show for vintage shop Lucite Box, owned by bicycling-and-brunching lady Holly. Last week, the group got together for a dress rehearsal, complete with hair and makeup magic by Christopher Conner.  Then we had a photoshoot by bicycle style photographer Martha Williams of Bike Fancy fame.  She is the best!

Model Lisa, Photographer Martha, and Vintage Clothier Holly

I’m in love with the Pashley Princess Britannia I was riding, courtesy of Boulevard Bikes. (I have a long and documented obsession with Pashleys.)

And I may have to buy this vintage 60’s tweed cape suit.  (As well as the blue velvet dress I chose as my evening look!)  Check out Lucite Box for some fabulous vintage clothing and housewares.

Me and Pashley by Martha Williams

You gotta check out the preview photos for all the lovely ladies at Bike Fancy. They look amazing! Such a fabulous collection of portraits.

Martha at Work

In Chicago? Great! Come out to the Bike Winter Fashion show this Friday night, 7-11:30, at Gala Gallery, 1000 N. Milwaukee.

The official description:

The 15th Annual Bike Winter Art Show closes on March 9th at the Gala Gallery located at 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave. Join us at the Bike Winter Art Show for a night of bicycle enthusiasm, cycling camaraderie and rider revelry that’s sure to shake off the winter blues. The benefit kicks off at 8 pm with a family fun puppet show performed by Jabberwocky. The main event, a runway fashion show, starts at 9 pm and is sponsored by Rapid Transit Cycles. After the fashion show, deejay Montay spins the beats. The event is free and open to the public.

More info on the Facebook page.

P.S. After Martha finished with my photos, she spotted this little girl bicycling in the park. Sweet!

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Bicycling to the Bookstore

One of my favorite things to do on a weekend is get out of my jammies, bike to the bookstore, and return home to my jammies and a day of reading new books.  (I’m a wild woman, I know.)  The ride to my favorite bookstore is about 3.5 miles roundtrip – the perfect distance for an easy ride that nevertheless allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished enough physical activity for the day.

As much as I love this bookstore, I would shop there less often if I could not ride my bicycle, because 3.5 miles is a bit much to walk in the cold and the store is not along my public transit route.  Even if I had a car, parking is nearly impossible to find in that neighborhood.  Lucky for both me and the store, I have my bicycle.  :)

Last Saturday I went a little crazy in the sale section, but they had so many excellent books for under $5.  By looking at my haul, you can get a big hint about where I’m going for my next trip.  (Mr. Dottie and I leave in one week!!)

Of course, I did not carry my books directly on my rack like this, but a canvas bag smushed down by bungie straps is not so photogenic.

Is there anywhere you enjoy going, but would rarely frequent if you could not bike there?  I think businesses in the city are well-served by a growing bicycling population.

Happy relaxing weekend to all!

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Another Windy City Commute

The shining sun this morning lured me out to the Lakefront Trail, away from my usual route to work.  Once I got onto the trail, I realized that there was an extremely strong headwind, the kind that slows me down by half.

I started to feel grumpy (this was pre-coffee, people!) but I stopped myself and decided to focus on all the good.  My path was clear, the sky had a subtle pink tint, and the spindly trees looked cool.  I could turn my face up to the sun and feel the slight warmth on my skin.

And turning the corner near the end of my ride and seeing this view is always good for morale.

In the afternoon, I treated myself to this bad boy for my hard work and as a fortification for my ride home.

Sometimes the wind turns on me as a cruel joke during the day, so I was a little worried about taking the lakefront home in the evening, but I couldn’t resist and this time I had the wind at my back.

That is the story of my windy city commute today.  Bike commute number 1,174 – approximately.  :)

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Beautiful Bicycles: The Pilen Lyx Step-Through

Last fall, I had the pleasure of test-riding for two days a completely new bike to me, the Pilen Lyx Step-Through from J.C. Lind Bike Co.

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The Pilen is a beautiful and utilitarian bike made in Sweden.  The ride is super sturdy and smooth, while also being pretty swift, and the bike has loads of utilitarian features.  I will point out all those features below, but first, here is my main thought on the bike: if I were forced to choose only one bike to own, I would choose the Pilen Lyx.  My WorkCycles Oma is a fully upright bike that allows me to bike in any type of clothing, carry lots of weight, ride regally, and weather any weather.  My Rivendell Betty Foy is the inanimate love of my life and gets me places quickly and comfortably.  However, these two bikes must work as a team to compliment my needs and moods.  Alone, each bike has weaknesses.

I’m not saying that I like the Pilen more than my bikes (never!  I’m fiercely loyal to Betty and Oma) but the Pilen manages to combine the most important qualities of each: all-weather sturdiness, swiftness, beauty, and carrying capacity.

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Swooping frame that makes it super easy to mount.

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Pretty badge, sprung Brooks saddle and lugs.

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Front basket with support from stays down to the front wheel.  A spring to keep the front wheel from swinging around based on weight in the basket.

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A rear wheel lock and chain guard.

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Rubber-padded pedals to keep your shoes from slipping off (especially helpful with high heels).

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Schwalbe tires.  These are my personal favorite, because I’ve never gotten a flat on my Schwalbe tires since I’ve had them, after almost 4 years.

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Internal 7-speed gear hub that you change by twisting the handlebar.  This is my favorite system, the same that’s on my Oma, the Shimano Nexis.

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Built-in branded bell!  You ding by spinning it.

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Extremely sturdy rear rack that is extra wide and can hold lots of goodies.  There is so much I could do with that rear rack, even more than with my Oma’s sturdy rear rack.

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Beautiful front profile.  Sturdy kickstand (soooo helpful for loading and unloading), although I would prefer a double-footed kickstand for more uprightness and for easy access from either side of the bike.

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Front generator light, meaning they’re powered by pedaling and never die.  Rear battery-powered LED light.

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The ride of the Pilen is quite upright.  Not quite as upright as a traditional Dutch bike, but certainly comfortable.

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The proportions of the bike worked very well with me (I’m 5’7 with a long torso).  The ride was swift, easy, and smooth —not quite as swift as my Rivendell and not quite as smooth as my Oma, but an excellent combination of the two.

I cannot comment on how well the bike would age, but it seems like it would withstand the elements and wear-and-tear quite well. The only part I would be worried about is the chain, since it is not fully covered.  I hate having to keep a chain clean.

Overall, I thought this bike was pretty kick-ass. I was impressed.

As always, I recommend that you test ride the bike – and as many others as possible – before making a decision.  J.C. Lind Bike Co. is a sponsor of Let’s Go Ride a Bike, but  my review is my own.  For another perspective, including off-road performance, Lovely Bicycle had the bike for a month and you can read her review here.

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February’s Women Who Bike Brunch

Yesterday the Chicago Women Who Bike Brunch descended upon Haymarket Brewery in the West Loop.

Tab: Bikers

Haymarket is a great place for big groups and easily accommodated our table of 25.

The food was delicious, especially for a brewery, and I enjoyed some of the best French toast ever.

The mimosas each came with their own mini bottle of champagne!

After a long and luxurious meal, we headed outside to chat and slowly unlock our bikes.  The weather was partly sunny and 40 degrees, so there was no big rush.

A few of us decided to go back inside and embark on some Haymarket beer taste-testing at the bar.  Such a good idea!  Their beer is as good as their food.  (Thanks, Sara!)

I always look forward to celebrating a new month with this great group of women!

If you’re in the Chicago area and would like to join us, email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.  Our next meet-up will be a happy hour this Thursday.

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Sprinkles

As the mild weather continues, I’ve been dressing for spring and removing my light jacket during rides.  This weather really feels like April.

The warm weather also makes it a good time to ride with friends and take the long way home, instead of the usual winter feeling of “Get me home as soon as possible, Ms. Bike!”

After work on Tuesday, I met up with my friend Sara downtown and we meandered home up the Lakefront Trail, riding side-by-side and chatting.

But not before fueling up on cupcakes at Sprinkles.

Yummy!  So even though it literally started to sprinkle a tiny bit on our way home, I was feeling good and grateful that the sprinkles were not snow flurries.

Happy February!

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Black Ice Weekend

After mentioning that I have not put my studded tires on Oma yet, I missed them this weekend.  Some mild precipitation on Friday night caused patches of black ice to form all around the city.

I had to walk Oma over black ice several times while getting around on Saturday – biking to Logan Square to try on vintage outfits from Holly’s Lucite Box for the upcoming Bike Winter Fashion Show (found a gorgeous blue velvet dress), back to Lakeview for Heritage Bicycles’ grand opening party (crowded!), and to Wicker Park with a bikey group to see circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza (pure fun). On Sunday, I decided simply to take the L to the Loop to see Mamet’s Race at Goodman Theatre (excellent).

Not simply a wet road, but a sheet of thin black ice

Based on this experience, I decided to put the studded tires on Oma, but today’s forecasted high of 44 F has me delaying the studs again. But I’m extra cautious while biking, especially at night.

I’ll leave you with a Mucca Pazza song to brighten your Monday morning. :)

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Breakfast at Heritage Bicycles

If someone asked me last year what kind of business I would most like to see open in my neighborhood, I might have said {deep breath} a combination bike shop and coffee shop that sells steel frame mixtes made in Chicago, cupcakes, and fancy coffee, with a friendly atmosphere and a communal table where I could gather my bicycling friends.

I mean, that’s awfully specific, but I could have said it.

Bicycles + Coffee = Love

Either someone read my mind or I am not the only lover of bikes, coffee, community, and local goods, because exactly this kind of business just opened a hop, skip, and pedal from my home. This magical place is Heritage Bicycles.

Excited by this development, my friend Elizabeth and I met there for breakfast this morning.  I learned that Heritage is a sort of sister store to the popular Bowery Lane Bikes in NYC.   The owner, Michael, was a founding partner of Bowery Lane.  He and his wife decided to bring the concept to his native Chicago.

"Coffee Guy" Cameron and owner Michael

Unlike Bowery Lane, Heritage is way more than simply a bike manufacturer and seller.  The place is also a full-fledged cafe, communal hang-out spot, and bike workshop.

Heritage perfectly executes the mixed-use concept.  Potential cafe customers should have no fear of being stuck in a crammed and greasy workshop while trying to enjoy their cappuccinos.  Everything about the space is beautiful, from the light-bathed reclaimed wood to the mirrored walls and sparkling chandeliers.  There is no reason to limit cafe visits to bike-related errands.  Anyone looking for a relaxing neighborhood spot would love Heritage, regardless of any interest in bicycles (although perhaps uninterested parties could be persuaded by the beautiful display bikes).

The coffee and food live up to the gorgeous space and inviting atmosphere.  With pastries from local favorite Southport Grocery and coffee beans from Portland’s Stumptown, the fare is as good as – if not better than – other independent coffee shops in Chicago.  Waaaaay better than Starbucks, it should go without saying.  While I’m partial to Chicago roasters Metropolis and Intelligentsia, the Stumptown brew was delicious.

On the other side of the business, potential bike shop customers should not write Heritage off as all style and no substance.

Separate from but open to the cafe is a bike workshop room.  There are two bike mechanics on staff and interns from non-profit West Town Bikes’ educational programs.  The crew will assemble Heritage bikes and perform maintenance work like a regular bike shop.   The place seems low key, the opposite of pretentious.

There is another small area that stocks accessories, including clothing, saddles, books, and Yakkay Helmets.  (You can also shop online.)

And the bikes?  Why, they’re the best part, of course!

In addition to carrying the Bowery Lane made-in-NY bikes, Heritage has its own Chicago model, the Daisy,  a mixte starting at $695 for a single speed, $795 for a 3-speed, and $850 for a 7-speed.  I haven’t had a chance to test ride her yet, but she is lovely.  Split top tube, Velo Orange Belleville bars, brass bell, sprung leather saddle, cork grips, chain guard, fender = love!  The best part?  She’s made of American steel and welded, painted, and assembled in Chicago.

After seeing the shop, chatting with Michael and Cameron, and enjoying breakfast, Elizabeth and I set off for work well-fueled.

I foresee that I will mention stopping by Heritage for coffee a lot in the future, especially since it’s along my commuting route. For sure I will stop by for their Grand Opening party this Saturday, 6 – 11. Heritage Bicycles is located at 2959 N. Lincoln.  Note: I think the shop will be closed the rest of the weekend and then open for normal business starting next week. See you there?  :)

For all of you who don’t live in Chicago, you might want to consider moving there, where all the cool kids are.  In the meantime, you can get your paws on these bikes through the power of the internets.

{Chicago’s bike geeks are all excited about Heritage.  Read Elizabeth’s take  on Bike Commuters and another write-up on Grid Chicago.}

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Carpooling in a Snow Storm

Six inches of snow fell on Chicago yesterday afternoon and evening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had no intention of cycling in that mess.  My plan was to take the L train, but a co-worker mentioned that she and a friend carpool along a route that passes by my L stop.  She offered to pick me up anytime and I gladly accepted the offer.  The car is already on the road anyway.

In the morning, I walked a block to the L station and a couple of minutes later she pulled up.  I sank into the heated passenger seat – yup, heated - and enjoyed friendly conversation during a calm drive downtown.   (I wonder, is there a way to make my Brooks saddle heated?  ‘Cause that would be amazing!)

The car ride was no faster than my bike ride along the same route, about 25 minutes.  (This is the busy route I recently recorded.)  There’s a lot of backed up traffic, so I’m able to keep up with cars most of the way.  Funny, they used to see me on my bike a lot in the mornings, when I took that route daily.

Snow started falling fast and furious around 1:30 pm and my office decided to close early at 3 pm.  I knew that taking the L home would be an easy 25 minutes, much faster than a car in a snow storm, but deserting my co-worker wouldn’t have been very nice.  :)   The car ride home in the snow took one hour, but I didn’t mind at all.  In fact, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.  In my heated seat.

There is no way I would have biked in the snow given the road conditions.  If I were in Copenhagen with protected bike lanes maintained by snow plows, sure, but that was obviously not the case.  (You wouldn’t know, but there’s a snow-covered bike lane in the photo above.)

I saw a couple of intrepid cyclists during the ride and I was stressed out just watching them.  I saw a couple others walking their bikes, like this mom and child below.  I assume they set out on the bakfiets hours earlier, before the snow got out of control.

Does anyone else carpool sometimes?  Seems it was all the rage in the ’90s, but I never hear anything about it now.  I enjoyed the experience and in the future when I need to take the L train, I may text my co-worker first to see if she’s carpooling that day.  I hate standing up on the L, plus it costs $2.25 each way.  And did I mention heated seats?  ;)

Did anyone bike home in the snow??  If so, my hat is off to you.

 

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A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

Have I mentioned that winter’s finally come to Chicago?  And she is not messing around.

This morning I biked to work in 15 F temps.  My alley was an ice rink, but the streets and bike lanes were clear and dry.  That’s good, because I haven’t put studded tires on Oma yet.  I was totally comfortable throwing a puffy vest over a wool skirt suit and wool undershirt, plus cotton tights, snow boots, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  I stuck heating packs in my mittens and boots, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt refreshed and happy.

Unfortunately, the day grew colder and this outfit proved to be lacking for the commute home.

The temperature on the way home was effing cold:

For the non-Americans out there, that’s:

Plus, it was windy!  As usual.  Windchill of -7 F, -22 C.  By the time I got home, my fingers and toes were in pain (despite the warmers) and my thighs were bright red.  Not gonna lie: my spirits were low.  But now that I’m warmed up, I feel good for the activity and fresh air.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since I can bike in -4 F temps, today should not have been a problem.  Now that I’ve been harshly reminded of the reality of Chicago winters, I wont be caught unprepared again this year.

Tomorrow happens to be Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day, but up to 7 inches of fresh snow are supposed to fall, so forget that.  I won’t be on my bike, especially without studded tires.  Not my idea for fun, but I hope anyone who rides has a good and safe time.

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Bike·a·Bee: urban beekeeping meets city cycling

I recently received an email from Jana Kinsman, a long-time reader and year-round Chicago cyclist, about a very cool project she is beginning with the help of Kickstarter called Bike·a·Bee.

With Bike·a·Bee, Jana aims to bring beehives to community gardens all around Chicago. She will be an urban beekeeper who visits every hive herself by bike. The entire operation will be car-free.

Jana Kinsman of Bike·a·Bee, photo by John Greenfield of Grid Chicago

She had me at bicycles and honeybees, but I especially enjoyed hearing that “honeybees are a female-run society. The queen bee is in charge, and all of the worker bees are female. Drones, the males, are essentially around for mating purposes :)”

Love it.

In order to make all this work, Jana needs to raise money to pay for the operation, including a bike trailer and beehives. Her goal is $7,000 and she must raise the entire amount by February 7th.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see in my community, so I decided to support the project personally as a bike trailer backer. When the project gets going, there will be an LGRAB logo on the trailer. Fun!

Anyone can become a backer by investing $1 or more to help get the project going. Other rewards for becoming a backer of the Bike·a·Bee Kickstarter project including bee postcards, bee stickers, bee posters, and bee honey! Plus, you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a project start and watching it grow.

By helping fund Bike·a·Bee, you are casting a vote for sustainability and urban agriculture as much as you are earning some sweet gifts! As Bike·a·Bee launches, we’ll begin creating webisodes to document our process and share the story. You’ll be there as we set up our first hives in the spring, check on the bees throughout the summer, harvest honey in the early fall, and tuck them in for the winter. You’ll be with us from the start because, without your support, a project of this scope wouldn’t be possible.

As of this posting, she has raised $6,236 of her $7,000 goal.

Let’s help push her to her goal and beyond!

{For more information about Jana and her project, read the excellent interview by John Greenfield on Grid Chicago.}

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At Long Last: Snow!

The inevitable has happened: snow finally arrived in Chicago!  Yesterday evening I was biking home without a jacket and today the streets look like this:

Instead of my bike, I took public transit:

I’m escaping to Nashville for a long weekend tomorrow, so I can deny the arrival of winter a little bit longer.  :)

Anyone enjoy a snow ride today?

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A Downtown Chicago Adventure on New Year’s Eve!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was sipping coffee in my pajamas when I got a text from my friend Elizabeth, encouraging me to join her for a bike ride downtown.  I was sorta prepared to spend the entire day in my PJs with books, but after some peer pressure, I said yes (don’t we all need a lil’ push sometimes?).

I’m so glad I did because it was a lovely way to end the year!

The weather was chilly but mild for Chicago winter.  I broke out my new hot pink Kate Spade tights to go with my suede boots and red jacket – a totally comfortable outfit for the day’s outing.

Betty Foy was ready to go, dorked out with her Christmas lights and mounted camera (with which I recorded this video of the Lakefront Trail).

And of course my dear friend Elizabeth with her Santa hat!

We took the Lakefront Trail south 7 miles to the Buckingham Fountain.

 It was off – booo.

Then we made our way to the Art Institute of Chicago


…to check out the awesome lions with their famous holiday wreaths.

About that time we started to get a bit too cold.  No problem – we popped into a cafe for hot cocoa.  Mmmm, the perfect fuel.


Next, we looped over to North Michigan Avenue, where I had to take one photo of this truly ridiculous temporary Marilyn Monroe statue.  I’m a fan of MM and kitsch, but  if you have any doubt how icky this installation is, watch for five minutes how tourists interact with it when posing for photos!

Finally, I said goodbye to my favorite Chicago building before getting back on the trail to return home, stopping at local book shop, Unabridged, on the way.

By the time I got home in the late afternoon with nearly 20 miles under my belt, I felt great – tired in a good and healthy way that allowed me to spend the next two days curled up with books and scotch without feeling too much like a sloth.  :)

Here’s to motivating friends, fun bike rides, fresh air, and 2012!

{Read Elizabeth’s side of the story at Bike Commuters.}

{See a similar ride I did two years ago (dang, time flies!!) complete with holiday lions.}

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Video: Chicago’s 18th Street Protected Bike Lane

Yesterday I was in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s southside for the Women-Who-Bike brunch.  I decided to take the Lakefront Path for the 10 mile ride home, which I could reach by taking the new protected bike lane on S. 18th Street from Canal to Clark Streets, connecting the Pilsen and Chinatown areas.  This protected bike lane is one of three in Chicago and exists in part thanks to Alderman Solis (read more about his Ward’s projects and his recent trip to the Netherlands here).

Here is a quick video I made of the entire half mile long lane, sped 250%.

Grid Chicago reported on the construction of this bike lane in November.  Progress has been made since then, but I assume (hope) that the lane is not finished because there is no protection on the grated bridge and not much treatment for the intersections.  The riding experience for new bicyclists could be stressful at those points.  Overall, the protected bike lane was a pleasure to ride and certainly an improvement, although not as thoroughly executed as the Kinzie protected bike lane.

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